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Can an Association Restrict Firearm Possession? By: Ian C. Mullenhour, Esq.

Firearm possession and the Second Amendment is perhaps one of the biggest political issues on the minds of Americans today. Recent tragedies in Highland Park, Uvalde, and Buffalo have once again brought firearm possession and the Second Amendment to the political forefront. Questions like “Who can own a gun?” “Who should own a gun?” and “What restrictions can we place on owning a gun?” dominate political discussion.  While board members have extensive decision-making power over their associations, boards must tread carefully when considering restrictions on firearm possession within their communities.

If an association’s governing documents are silent on firearms, boards may ask the question “Can we actually restrict firearm possession?” The answer is no, but the Board can make reasonable restrictions related to firearm possession. Constitutional rights must be accounted for when considering firearm restrictions in associations.

The Supreme Court of the Unites States made clear that restrictions against a private person keeping firearms in their home will be invalidated as a violation of the Constitution. The use of guns in the home is a fundamental right protected by the Second Amendment of the Constitution. What this means for associations is that boards are restricted from enacting policies that would prohibit an owner from having a firearm in their home.

So, what rules can a board create to restrict firearm possession on association property? Boards may adopt reasonable restrictions on the possession of firearms on association common elements. For example, restrictions on firearm possession in community pools, club houses, or other common element spaces are permissible.

With that said, restrictions on firearm possession cannot be so limiting as to make firearm possession in the home difficult or impossible. Restrictions on firearm possession should allow exceptions for transporting firearms to and from the home. If an owner cannot reasonably transport their firearm to and from their home without crossing common elements, courts will likely find that the restriction violates owners’ constitutional rights under the Second Amendment.

Recently, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed two bills into law which directly impact Ohio residents’ Second Amendment rights. The two bills, S.B. 156 and S.B. 215, expand Ohio residents’ rights in regard to the possession of firearms and knives.

First, S.B. 156 establishes knives as arms necessary for the exercise of fundamental rights, along with firearms, parts of firearms, the components of a firearms, and ammunition.  Ohio residents’ right to possess a knife is now protected to the same degree as firearms. Associations should be aware of this change in the law when considering restrictions on the possession of weapons in association common elements. Ohio boards will need to use the same care when creating restrictions on the possession of knives on the common elements as they would firearms.

Second, S.B. 215 removes the requirement for individuals to obtain a license to carry a concealed weapon in Ohio. Previously, Ohio residents were required to obtain a license in order to carry a concealed weapon. With the removal of this requirement, any Ohio resident who is legally permitted to possess a firearm may now carry the weapon concealed without a license.

Regardless of individual board members political views on gun control and firearm possession, boards should be aware of the Constitutional protections on firearm ownership when making decisions for their community.

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